My 5-Year-Old Daughter Is Still Breastfeeding And I Don’t Know How To Stop

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breastfeeding childMayim Bialik‘s 4-year-old finally weaned himself.

I’m jealous.

Because my daughter just turned five, and she’s still going strong.

I know what you’re thinking: I’m just doing this for myself. You thought that about Mayim too. And that mom on the cover of TIME. But if you think giving a preschooler access to my boobs is something I do for myself, well, you’ve obviously never done it.

And why should it be about me? Our culture is perfectly comfortable with child-led achievement of other milestones (potty training? walking?), so what makes breastfeeding different? Why is it a good idea to let a child decide when she wants to quit diapers but totally inappropriate to let her decide when to quit the boob?

I’ll be honest: I’d love to let my daughter decide when to stop. But at this point, I’d also be happy to take the lead myself.

I just can’t figure out how.

It’s not that I can’t tell her no. I do all the time (she doesn’t have ice cream for breakfast, and she doesn’t watch TV all day, although she begs to do both). It’s certainly not that I’m clinging to her babyhood (I’ve got a younger baby who is also breastfeeding). It doesn’t help me lose weight (quite the opposite), and I don’t particularly enjoy it.

And I know she doesn’t really need it anymore.

It’s just that she still thinks she needs it. And like any other step toward independence, I’m not sure she’ll really thrive without it until she decides for herself that she’s ready.

She always enjoyed breastfeeding more than the average baby. As a newborn, she latched on within minutes and barely unlatched for a year. At her first birthday, when many of her peers were weaning, she was cutting back to once every two or three hours. Back then, nursing a toddler didn’t faze me. Most of the time I liked it. It was a powerful parenting tool. I could stop a tantrum mid-scream, end a fight instantly, or put her to bed in seconds, all with the magical power of mama milk.

But by the time she turned two, I was getting tired. She still nursed at least every three hours, more on some days. She could go without it — she went to preschool two days a week and managed just fine — but if I was around, she wanted my boobs.

So I added limits. I established a “nursing chair” and told her that was the only place we would nurse. Instead of grabbing my shirt and whining, she learned to climb in the chair and ask politely, “May I have mama milk now?” We stopped nursing in public, and I began to hope that maybe, soon, she’d be ready to stop.

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